What Is an MOV File?

How to Open, Edit, and Convert MOV Files

MOV Files
MOV Files.

A file with the MOV file extension is an Apple QuickTime Movie file that's stored in a QuickTime File Format (QTFF) container file.

An MOV file can store audio, video and text in the same file through different tracks, or the tracks can point to the data stored elsewhere in another file.

iOS devices like iPhones and iPads are a common place to see MOV files because that's the default file format that those devices record video in.

Note: Apple QuickTime Movie files generally use the .MOV file extension, but some may be saved with the .QT or .MOVIE extension instead.

How to Open an MOV File

Apple's iTunes and QuickTime programs, VLC, Windows Media Player and Elmedia Player are all able to play MOV files.

Note: If your Apple QuickTime Movie file has the .QT or .MOVIE file extension, you probably need to use QuickTime unless you want to try renaming the file extension to .MOV.

Another way to open MOV files on a computer is using Google Drive. For this to work requires you to upload the video to that online storage service, which then lets you not only back up the file online but also stream the MOV file from any browser and compatible mobile device (through its mobile apps).

Tip: If when you double-click the MOV file, it opens in a program other than the one you want to use it with (like WMP instead of VLC), see my How to Change the Default Program for a Specific File Extension guide.

However, if your file isn't opening at all in any of those MOV players, skip down to the bottom of this page for help.

How to Convert an MOV File

Not all media players, devices, online file storage services and websites support the MOV format. In those instances, you can convert the MOV file to a new format to make it usable for your specific situation.

The best way to convert the MOV file is to use a free file converter. Most of them let you convert MOV videos to MP4, WMV and AVI, or even directly to a DVD. Some can also extract the audio from the MOV file and save it as an MP3. A couple of my favorites include Freemake Video Converter and EncodeHD.

Even the VLC media player program mentioned above, which can open MOV files, can also convert them to formats like MP4. This is accomplished through VLC's Media > Convert / Save... menu option. Browse for the MOV file and then use the Convert / Save button to choose an output format.

Video files are normally pretty large in size, so your best bet is to use a dedicated video converter program. However, if you have a small video file or you don't mind waiting for it to upload, you can also convert an MOV file with an online converter like Zamzar or FileZigZag. Remember that converting the MOV file this way means you have to then download the converted file back to your computer before you can use it.

Tip: Zamzar is one example of an MOV file converter that can save the movie to a GIF file.

More Information on MOV Files

MP4 and MOV files are similar in that they are both lossy compression formats, meaning parts of the file are trimmed in order to result in a smaller file size.

This is why you often see MP4 and MOV files as the format of choice for videos distributed online.

However, the MP4 container format is much more common than MOV and so is supported by a wider variety of software and hardware devices.

Is Your File Still Not Opening?

If your file doesn't open with the programs mentioned here, it's possible that you're misreading the file extension. Some file formats use file extensions that look almost identical, and it can be confusing when trying to open one because it might just look like it uses the .MOV file extension when it really doesn't.

One example is the MAV file extension, which is reserved for Access View files used with Microsoft Access.

MAV files have nothing to do with videos, so trying to open one in an MOV-compatible video player like VLC, for example, will not work.

Another is MKV. Even though MKV and MOV are both video file formats, they don't always work with the same programs. In other words, an MKV opener on your computer might not work with MOV files, and vice versa.

The same is true for MOD, MODD and probably many other file formats.